Center for Semiotics

Semiotics is the study of signs and meaning.

At the Center for Semiotics, Aarhus University, this involves a broad range of disciplines –

including aspects of linguistics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, religion, literature, the arts, the sciences and logic.


Upcoming Events

PhD Defence Johanne Stege Philipsen

Friday 5 May 2017 at 1.00 p.m. Johanne Stege Philipsen, MA will defend her thesis entitled:

Creative Synergies - On how ideas grow in interaction


Aarhus University
building 1441, auditorium 2 (112) Taasingegade 2, DK-8000 Aarhus C.

Assessment committee

  • Associate Professor Peer Bundgaard, Aarhus University (chair)

  • Professor Barbara Tversky, Colum- bia University

  • Professor Frédéric Vallée-Tou- rangeau, Kingston University


  • Associate professor Svend Østergaard(), Aarhus University

  • Associate professor Kristian Tylén, Aarhus University

The thesis defence is hosted by the School of Communication and Culture, Center for Semiotics. It is con- ducted in English and open to the public.

The thesis is available for reading at the office of Nelly Dupont, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2, Nobel Park, building 1485/339, DK-8000 Aarhus C

After the defence a reception will be held in the staff lounge, building 1485, room 344. 

Previous Events

Torben Sangild - How do jokes work?

How do jokes work? An analytical approach to stand-up comedy by Torben Sangild.

"Never explain a joke, some people say. But if you have already laughed at it, there is not much to ruin. So I will explain some types of jokes, their inner logic, their rhetoric and timing as well as different kind of stand-up comedy. Examples from British and American stand-up will be played and laughed at before I ruin them."

The event will take place on Wednesday 27th of April, 4-6 pm., Building 1485, room 642, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2, Nobelparken.

PHD Defence - Rasmus Høll Nielsen

A Naturalistic Approach to Horror Entertainment

Contested Property Claims

Contested Property Claims
Research seminar with Mikkel Thorup

Abstract: The talk will present an ongoing research project on struggles over the control of urban spaces. We look at property as a dynamic process shaped and challenged by the practices and arguments through which social actors communicate, defend, and critique property claims. And our special focus is on what happens when actors to a conflict have equal yet conflicting claims communicated through law, morality, politics, common use or other property languages.

Cognitive Event Analysis: Towards an ecology of cognitive particulars

As envisioned by James Gibson, an ecological approach to cognition takes a starting point in the reciprocity of an organism and its environment. If one adds to Gibson’s vision the idea that this reciprocity constitutes an organism-environment system, then we have a self-organised cognitive system, animated by the organism and incorporating various structures in the environment. The dynamics of such systems constitute a cognitive trajectory (i.e. the path traversed by the system), and give rise to cognitive events (i.e. significant changes – phase transitions – along the cognitive trajectory). In other words, the specific configuration of cognitive events creates a unique, irreproducible cognitive trajectory, constituted by the fine-grained particulars of human behaviour. Building on this ecological framework, the talk present a qualitative method for analyzing such cognitive events: Cognitive Event Analysis (CEA).The talk outlines the theoretical framework that underlies CEA, presents the methodological principles, and demonstrates the method on both experimental and naturalistic data.

References on Cognitive Event Analysis:

Cowley, S. J., & Nash, L. (2013). Language, interactivity and solution probing: Repetition without repetition. Adaptive Behavior, 21, 187-198. DOI: 10.1177/1059712313482804

Pedersen, S. B. (2015). The cognitive ecology of human errors in emergency medicine: an interactivity-based approach. (Ph.D.), University of Southern Denmark, Odense.  

Pedersen, S. B., & Steffensen, S. V. (2014). Temporal Dynamics in Medical Visual Systems. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 21(1-2), 143-157.

Steffensen, S. V. (2013). Human interactivity: Problem-solving, solution-probing and verbal patterns in the wild. In S. J. Cowley & F. Vallée-Tourangeau (Eds.), Cognition Beyond the Brain: Computation, Interactivity and Human Artifice (pp. 195-221). Dordrecht: Springer.

Steffensen, S. V. (In press/2015). Cognitive Probatonics: towards an ecological psychology of cognitive particulars. New Ideas in Psychology, 1-10.

Steffensen, S. V., & Pedersen, S. B. (2014). Temporal Dynamics in Human Interaction. Cybernetics & Human Knowing, 21(1-2), 80-97.

Steffensen, S. V., Vallée-Tourangeau, F., & Vallée-Tourangeau, G. (In press/2015). Cognitive Events in a Problem-solving Task: A Qualitative Method for Investigating Interactivity in the 17 Animals Problem. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 1-25.

Vallée-Tourangeau, F., Steffensen, S. V., Vallée-Tourangeau, G., & Makri, A. (2015). Insight and cognitive ecosystems. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Thirty-seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX.

The Generality of Signs

On Wednesday, the Research Seminar will be featuring no less than professor Frederik Stjernfelt! Stjernfelt, the former director of Center for Semiotics, is an internationally renowned figure in the world of semiotics, and in this talk he will discuss a core semiotic topic: the generality of signs (abstract below).

Abstract: The Generality of Signs
For some odd reason, the generality of most signs is an overlooked secret. This paper discusses issues such as:
- Which signs are general?
- The generality of predicates
- The general structure of propositions
- The connection between general signs and realism
- The strange ontology of nominalism

The seminar will, as usual, conclude with a general discussion with the audience. We hope to see you all for a cosy and intellectually stimulating afternoon on Wednesday, October 7th at 4pm!

Stylistics, text analysis and cognitive science

with Dr. Catherine Emmott
(University of Glasgow, Scotland)


11th May – 13th May 2015



Per Aage Brandt:
Spaces, Domains, and Meaning

Download Per Aage Brandt’s book Spaces, Domains, and Meaning - Essays in Cognitive Semiotics (2004). The book is sold out from the publisher and is free for download.

Contains the essays: Three Imagistic Operators: Metaphor, Catachresis, Simile - Language, Domains, and Blending - The Architecture of Semantic Domains - On Causation and Narration - The Semantics of Diagrams - Mental Space Networks and Linguistic Integration - Semio-linguistic and Stemmatic Syntax - Poetry, Cognitive Semiotics, and Baudelaire's Cats - Metaphors in Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 - Reflections in the Mental Brain - The Mystery of Interpretation - Music and the Private Dancer - Art, Technique, and Cognition - From Gesture to Theatricality - What's New? - 50.000 Years of Modernism.

Click here to download PDF (268 pages, 7.3 MB)